Jagalchi Market

You can smell Jagalchi Market long before you can see it.

The rows aren’t narrow, but they sure as hell feel cramped with all of the people packed in like….well, like sardines in a can.

Every vendor had their own style when it came to displaying their wares, and it was fascinating to note the differences. I noted them quickly, though; in an area this packed, it’s important to keep moving.

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We briefly walked inside to check out the actual Jagalchi Market, but were quickly intimidated by all of the vendors. They bounce up to you with a big smile, gesturing at their table and menus, exclaiming that their fish was the best fish at the market.

It wasn’t long before we decided to head back outside, but I’m glad that we took a peek anyway.

Back outside again, we headed to the edge of the market to see if we could spot the Gamcheon Culture Villiage. And, lo and behold, we could!

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Those buildings in the distance =Gamcheon Culture Village

We walked through the market area one more time as we headed toward our new target. Pretty soon we were walking in an open area again, surrounded by concrete, buildings, and cars.

Still, the smell of fish lingered long after the sounds of the market had vanished behind us.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

Haeundae Beach (In Winter)

Nowadays, as I trudge through the snow on my way to work, with my entire body covered in layer after layer of clothing, I can’t help but think back to my time in Busan.

It was much warmer there, for one thing.

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The view from our guesthouse

 

It was the middle of winter, yet I could walk around with a light jacket and feel perfectly fine. Each morning, I could stick my head out of our window to take in the view without letting bitterly cold air into our room.

The market right outside of our hostel was always bustling with activity. We walked past countless piles of oranges, many bright-blue fish tanks, and buckets full of sardines that were still squirming. Food vendors added smells of baked and fried goods to this mix.

My friend Annie had the foresight to snag us a guesthouse* that was right next to the beach. I was skeptical prior to our arrival.

Annie: “We’ll be so close to the beach!”

Me: “…Yeah, in the middle of winter…?” 

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Haeundae Beach

Clearly, my skepticism didn’t hold water once I saw the beach.

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Visiting this beach in the wintertime = fewer people there overall. This meant two things:

  1. It was much quieter than it would have been in the summertime.
  2. Fewer people there meant fewer people to laugh at us as we took off our shoes and stepped into that freezing, unmerciful water. (So cold, and lots of shrieking involved, but so worth it.)

And, after drying our feet off, it was time to go check out the lights.

Stay warm out there, and thanks for reading,

Emme

 

 

*King Kong Guesthouse — I recommend it

A Remnant Blog Post from NYC

I recently rediscovered an old post that I was going to share two years ago. Now that I’m happily living in Korea, it feels appropriate to post it here. The juxtaposition is striking.

It begins below.

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Walking around New York at night is an odd experience because it never truly feels like nighttime. Manhattan, true to its reputation, is a constant bustle of activity and noise (even when you drift away from the tourism hell that is Times Square), with honking cars and people screaming out the stress they’ve kept bottled up until 3 a.m. Even out here in Queens, the neighborhoods don’t feel sleepy. Powered down, but not completely off.

New York’s overachieving nature can take most of the credit for this restlessness, I think. None of us feel rested because we aren’t supposed to be resting. We live in the city that’s defined by its Ambition — that great pillar of achievement. And Ambition implies work, and struggle, and crawling up out of the muck. There isn’t much time to sleep when you’re constantly scrabbling to survive. Just ask the subway rats.

Another thing we have in common with the subway rats: neither of us ever bother to look up. Especially at night.

I come from Lincoln, Nebraska — Nebraska’s capital, and therefore a large place…by Nebraskan standards. It’s not large enough to blot out the night sky. Not enough pollution there.

Once, I went camping with friends up in Valentine, Nebraska, where it felt like we had traveled to the edge of the world. The night sky there was incredible. Rich blues and purples mixing with the black emptiness of space. The Milky Way stretching across the expanse. And more stars. Countless stars.

Meanwhile, in New York, the stars are hidden. As I walk around Queens this evening, I count three stars in total. And….actually, one of those stars is actually a plane.

The lack of stars here makes it easy to forget how small you are in comparison to everything. Even in NYC, the city known for making people feel small and unimportant, it’s easy to develop a sense of tunnel vision. Upstate New Yorkers joke that city folk forget about the world beyond NYC, and they’re right. We live in The Greatest City In The World, and therefore think we’re special. We may spend most of our evenings eating pre-packaged foods whilst using our roommate’s HBO account because we can’t afford our own…instead of throwing parties at our Manhattan penthouse after attending 6 Broadway shows (one for each night of the week, because we’re worth it) but, god dammit, we’re here, and that’s so much better than being there, right?

The trouble with this attitude is that there contains many possibilities as well. Stars may remind me of how small I am, but they also point out my potential. The universe is vast — there’s so many places I could go, so many things I could do. There’s more to life than here, even if that here is New York.

To put it plainly — I miss stars.

And that is why, after about two years, I have decided to leave New York.

P.S.

If you’re feeling restless tonight and have the means to do so, take a minute and go outside. And look up.

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Keep looking up, and thanks for reading,

Emme

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

I expected to be deeply impressed by Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. It was the first item on my to-do list for Busan. Everything else would be a pleasant bonus to the trip, but the temple? A must-see.

Now that I’ve seen it, I’m struggling to pick which synonym best describes how I felt as I stood there, watching people move about the temple as the waves crashed all around us. Awed? Affected? Struck? Moved? Inspired?

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love the ocean

One of the greatest things about this temple is that its entrance is very pleasant and unassuming. The area right along the coastline can take your breath away, but the journey begins in a forested area full of sculptures and statues. It’s quiet. The wind rustles. Birds chirp to each other. People murmur amongst themselves as they examine the statues.

 

This is, of course, a religious site first and foremost. Still, I can’t help but appreciate the sense of anticipation and drama I felt as I made my way down the steps with the rest of the crowd. The trees blocked our view, so our mutual eagerness was practically visible in the air.

 

When I caught my first glimpse of the temple, I began grinning from ear to ear. I had faith that the full view of it would live up the hype.

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My faith was rewarded.

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After marveling at the view for a while, it was time to cross the bridge over to the actual temple. I stopped only to take a photo of the statues beneath the bridge. They held their bowls aloft, meant for visitors’ coins. Several people stayed on the bridge to try their luck (and their aim) before continuing on their way. People cheered whenever someone succeeded in tossing a coin into one of the bowls.

 

Many people were there, but the area never felt crowded to me.

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There was a staircase close to the Buddha statue that led up to a higher viewing point, too.

 

It started to rain, but it was clear that nobody minded getting a little damp. We all began to leave only when the cracks of thunder began drowning out the sound of the ocean waves.

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Even with the (eventual) pouring rain, it was a peaceful morning. A perfect start to my time in Busan.

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Thanks for reading,

Emme

Missing Fall in Asan

Now that we’re well into January, I find myself missing fall weather again. Today I was thinking back to a time in Asan when colorful leaves covered the ground instead of cold, damp slush.

A group of friends and I had gone to Asan that morning to run a 5K. It was my first time in Asan. The weather was perfect: sunny, yet cold. And the trees were wondrous.

We were running late and therefore in a bit of a rush, but I still tried to snap photos as we made our way to the starting line.

The sun stayed high and bright in the sky during the race. No wind, either, which was a godsend once we reached the point where we were running alongside the river instead of beneath the trees.

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Coffee was a must after the race. And, of course, there was a coffeeshop right near the finish line.

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The view from my seat in the coffeeshop

It was a good race and a great day spent with friends. I miss fall.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

Namsan Seoul Tower

I decided to take the cable car to Namsan Seoul Tower so that I could get the full ~experience~ my first time around.

Of course, this meant that I stood in line for well over an hour because I was a foolish woman who did not plan ahead. I hadn’t gotten a ticket beforehand AND I showed up at one of the most popular times for the cable car. (Nighttime. Gotta love those city lights, right?)

The line was pretty chill, yet it was still a looooooong line. I stared at the same two advertisements (pictured below) for an hour. I am not joking.

 

At least they were friendly looking men. And there’s a convenience store set up on one of the upper floors for people (like me) who didn’t pack snacks for the wait. Well done again, Korea. Well done indeed.

Anyway, eventually I made it to the front of the line. We were ushered inside the cable car and packed in like sardines, but no one complained. The mutual feeling of anticipation was practically palatable at that point.

 

The car ride was smooth. Tree branches rustled as we passed between them. Everyone kept giggling, softly gasping in awe, or talking in hushed tones as we coasted up toward our goal.

Then, at last, the cable car stopped and we got out. After walking up some stairs, we had made it to the base of the tower.

 

I immediately headed to the right, assuming that I just needed to go toward the lights in order to find the best viewing spots.

A short while later, I found my spot.

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I’m very glad I went up there at night. The view of the city was spectacular, of course, and there was more to see around the tower itself, too. Everything was lit up beautifully, including the love locks that covered most of the railings. In one area, they also had tree-like sculptures with even more love locks attached to them.

 

In the end, I decided not to pay extra to go up into the tower because I was content with the view I got from the tower’s base. Maybe I’ll do that next time.

And there will be a “next time.” After all, I tried the cable car at night, but I still haven’t experienced the hike up Namsan Mountain during the day. Just another item on my vacationing to-do list…

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Thanks for reading,

Emme

Dongdaemun Design Plaza

I had forgotten how fun it is to explore a new city. Luckily, Seoul, only an hour away from where I live, was there to remind me.

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Another day, another bus ride

My first stop was Dongdaemun Design Plaza. I hadn’t looked up information about it prior to going there, so I had no idea what to expect…which is why I whispered, “holy shit,” the moment after I had stepped out into this area:

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Soon I was walking up this smooth, white pathway that wound up through the center of one of the buildings. (I later learned that this area is literally called the Design Pathway.) It was a bustling area, thanks to the urban design exhibition and the many people that came to see it.

Needless to say, it was a sleek, interesting exhibition. I stayed for quite a while, just looking at all of the miniature displays.

The gift shops were fun to explore as well. I spent an almost alarming amount of time looking at the hats (pictured below), silently thinking, “who would wear these?” (Apparently there is a market for them? Ah, Korea…)

Once I was back outside, I was delighted to find the huge “garden” of LED roses. Actually, it was even better than that because, thanks to the layout of the area, I actually only saw a cluster of them at first and thought, “oh, that’s neat.” Then I rounded the corner, only to find SO MANY MORE ROSES. (Cue the double-take on my end.)

(They light up at night, too, by the way. I’m determined to come back and see them at that time of day. Soon.)

After hours of walking, my stomach politely reminded me that I hadn’t eaten much that morning. I mentally waved goodbye to the plaza as I headed south toward the river (and hopefully, food vendors).

Thanks for reading.

Emme

Train to Busan*

There are three ways to get to Busan from Cheonan: the KTX train, the regular train, or the bus. Last weekend, my friend, Annie, and I chose to take the regular train that left from Cheonan station. Our tickets said that we would leave at 9:56 a.m. and would reach Busan four hours later. Great!

We headed down to the platform at about 9:45 a.m. The train rolled up shortly after that, so we got on it and took our seats. So far, so good.

Ten minutes passed. A Korean couple walked by our row, stopped, did a double take, and then turned around to face us. I was immediately hit with that one inner thought process that every expat has experienced at some point: shit wtf did I do wrong what did I misunderstand oh god oh god–

It turned out that we were on the 9:52 a.m. train, not that 9:56 a.m. train. I deduced from this that in Korea, not only do the trains arrive on time here; they arrive on time within five minutes of each other.

The two Koreans were very nice about the whole thing, bless them. We changed places. Annie and I headed out to stand in the area between the cars, feeling sheepish. Now what…? 

Without the proper ticket, I began wondering about how we were going to make our way up to the roof of the train so that we could walk against the wind while following a snarky Tom Hanks counterpart. (Polar Express, anyone?)

Or maybe they would just throw us both off of the train…while smiling and waving politely at us. (There has yet to be a moment where a Korean person has been anything other than kind and polite to me, so this was the only scenario my brain could come up with.)

My thoughts were interrupted by the timely arrival of the train attendant. Between my basic Korean and his basic English, we figured out the problem. “Two stops, then get off, change train,” he told me as he scribbled our new arrival time onto a scrap of paper.

About an hour later, we arrived at that stop. We hopped off, waited less than ten minutes for the next train, double-checked our time this time, and then got on and took our seats. From there, it was a smooth ride straight to Busan.**

(This was a very anti-climatic ending, but there you have it. We didn’t necessarily have to backtrack, but I’d still classify this as an adventure, wouldn’t you?)

Thanks for reading,

Emme

 

*Minus the zombies. Makes for a much easier train ride.

**I can’t get over how smooth and easy the train systems are here. Way to go, Korea.

Gakweonsa Temple

A couple of weeks ago, back when there were still leaves on the trees, I went to Gakweonsa Temple.

It’s in eastern Cheonan (in Anseo-dong) near the last stop for the 14 and 81 buses. I took the 81 that late morning, expecting to get dropped off right at the bottom of the temple steps.

The actual drop off point was…underwhelming. (It was a parking lot.) Still, I appreciated the short walk (about 15 min) up the road. It gave me time to take in the stillness of the morning.

My phone still wasn’t working at this point and I didn’t bring a map, so I was guessing on the direction to go. I only knew I was on the right track once I came up alongside the lake.

After the lake, I found the steps. I walked up alone, the dry leaves crunching under my feet with each step I took.

This was the view at the top:

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After staring at this for a while, I kept going. I definitely knew what direction to go at that point; it was impossible to miss the GIANT buddha statue at the opposite end of the plaza.

Some people were taking a moment to pray; others were strolling around and talking; and still others, like me, just stood and looked for a while.

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After the statue, I headed down into the valley to see those buildings up close.

It felt good to simply wander around and take in all of the beautiful levels of detail on these buildings.

I finally left two hours later, completely recharged from the solitude and beauty I had experienced here. I was ready to face my work week again.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

Comes in Threes

Now that I’ve been in South Korea for a few months, I’ve started to compare my time here with my time in New York. Undoubtedly, there are some MAJOR differences between the USA and South Korea.

Three things I miss:

Fitted sheets!

Korean beds don’t come with fitted sheets. As far as I can tell, you can’t buy fitted sheets at a store around here, either. I don’t know why that is. I slip and slide each night as I try to get comfy in my bed. I never realized what a difference a fitted sheet makes!

Cars without tinted windows!

I have seen exactly one car in Korea that didn’t have tinted windows. I like the idea of tinted windows because of the privacy aspect. (No one can see you jammin’ out to the radio if they can’t look inside your car!) When you’re a pedestrian trying to cross the street without dying, however…then tinted windows are problematic. I can’t make eye contact with drivers! How am I supposed to know when they’re gonna coast through the intersection to turn right? When should I stop walking? Do you go first? Do I go first?? HELP.

CEREAL.

I miss cereal. I don’t really have a breakfast food here. I haven’t gotten used to the idea of eating a lunchtime food (rice, noodles, meat, etc.) for breakfast. I’ve met Koreans that do actually eat cereal in the morning, but I don’t know where they buy it because cereal here is EXPENSIVE. It’s like New York all over again! Why is cereal taking up half of my grocery budget??

Three things I don’t miss:

My NYC landlord!

I had a developing mildew problem on one of my apartment walls. I told my Korean landlord about it. Two days later, he came into my apartment and fixed it that very day. The wall is clean and I’m no longer breathing in spores a la The Last of Us.

Ya know what my NYC landlord did when I had a electrical wiring problem? He texted me to say that he’d, “come take a look soon.” Then he waited about 2,087 hours before showing up…just to tell me that he couldn’t repair it because it was my fault. Literal quotation from him: “The light keeps burning out because you don’t turn on the fan when you cook.” My response: “A wiring problem doesn’t have anything to do with the humidity. Anyway, the fan’s broken too. I told you about that three weeks ago.”

Driving a car!

I’m a NYC girl in several ways, including the fact that I hate driving. I prefer public transportation. Unlike NYC, the public transportation in Korea is top-notch, clean, and affordable. I walk or take the bus/subway everywhere now. It’s an utter delight.

WORKING IN THE MORNING.

My work schedule begins around 1 pm and ends close to 10 pm. That means that I don’t have to be awake at god-awful 6 am. I get up a little before 9 am and still have time to relax and get some stuff done before work. I relish my morning time now…because it’s MY morning time.

Thanks for reading,

Emme